Q1. Why is SOSA not taking part in the national inquiry (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse - IICSA)?
We are concerned that the approach by the chair Alexis Jay in her own words is thematic. She has said on numerous occasions that they will slim down the inquiry (which they have) and use the evidence to form a ‘focused’ investigation which is in essence reviewing claims that are already in the public domain. This approach cannot deliver the answer as to whether or not there was an institutional cover-up by police officers, Lambeth staff and politicians.
The only way for them to discover the truth is to investigate every claim of sexual abuse, improper behaviour and to look into all relevant staff and managers who turn a blind eye. Only from the entire body of information can you determine the extent of the failings and the cover-up.
SOSA has 1,700 members and only around 40 are giving evidence to IICSA due to its remit and its inaccessible approach to survivors. Despite our misgivings about IICSA’s approach we have co-operated and provided them with various reports and information including:
Looking for a Place Called Home - This report identified hundreds of claims of abuse and subsequent cover-ups including claims against the police and Lambeth staff. We asked for this to be shared with core participants which they have not yet done.
Turning a Blind Eye for 33 years - which is a comprehensive examination of all of Lambeth’s previous investigations and other relevant reports which once again have not been shared with core participants
Despite its narrow remit, with the information provided by SOSA and its members, in the various reports, a proper Inquiry can only conclude there was a cover-up in regards to Lambeth’s various investigations into child abuse, most notably the five year joint investigation Operation Middleton and Lambeth CHILE 1998- 2003.
Q2. What do you believe the Police response to this inquiry will be considering the allegations you have made against them?
It is important to start with Operation Middleton conducted by the Met police in 1998 - 2003. After their 5 year investigation into child abuse, the police announced that it had been a ground-breaking investigation. Over the years this has become their mantra and it has been said in many meetings to SOSA and was even repeated just 6 weeks ago. We have publicly challenged this and have relied on the fact that the police identified 50 paedophiles as a result of Middleton but only arrested 3, which doesn't sound very ground breaking to us. The Police have stated it was ground-breaking because of the inter-agency relationship, where the council was working alongside the police.
Five years ago when we began our investigation the police excused their colleagues past failings by their dubious phrase “the operation was of its time and we do things differently now”. This dangerously ignores what the law was at the time which clearly defined child sexual abuse as a criminal act requiring rigorous investigation. Regardless of whether or not the operation was “of its time”, those undertaking the operation were acting unlawfully, if they did not investigate these crimes.
Another regurgitated excuse for past failings is to apologise that the children were not taken seriously at the time but they are treated differently now. This is contradicted by the recent investigations which demonstrates the Police’s approach has not changed. There is no caveat in the law for claims of ignorance because the police should always be following the evidence and the evidence was always there. We suspect the police will continue with this approach during the IICSA enquire and it will be proceeded by we have changed. Once again this contradicts the law at the time, if the police did not investigate these crimes.
Another defence for their failing has been to state they were under-resourced, which is not a defence in law whether at the time or now. We were not shocked that during the recent investigations the police have used this get out of jail card. Most alarmingly this excuse is used more widely when the police are investigating themselves. In the past and now they have deliberately under-resourced these investigations, knowing they could rely on this ‘excuse’ if challenged?
In 20 years time what will be said about IICSA and the current police investigation when the truth trickles out into a flood - will they once again attempt to excuse their failings by stating that it was ‘of its time’? We ask the question is it also ‘of its time’ that Lambeth Council and the Police thought it appropriate to investigate SOSA to try and discredit us? We ask was it ‘of its time’ for the Police to speak to individual SOSA members in an attempt to undermine our organisation by telling them that we have an ulterior motive for undertaking our own investigation. We would also ask if the racism we suffered during our investigation will defended as being ‘of its time’.
This approach taken by the police and lambeth council mirrors the behaviour and racist stereotyping 27 years ago, following the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the subsequent police investigations into the key witness Dwayne Brooks where they appeared to be intent on discrediting him.
The law is not time sensitive, it is in real time and referencing past failures by saying it was ‘of its time’ is a smoke screen that shows a blatant disregard to the Lambeth’s care children who went onto commit suicide as a result of these failings.
If the police insist on using the excuse that ‘it was of its time’ they cannot do this in isolation and should also consider the wider culture at the time, especially within Lambeth Council where we know there was wide-scale corruption in the 1970s and 80s and more importantly corruption was also endemic in the police force. This would have had more of an impact in the failed inquires especially knowing police officers were also abusing children in Lambeth at the time.
The arbitrators of true justice are the victims and we do not accept any excuses that were given in the past or now and this is the reason why we say that justice must come before the law - if the law fails to deliver justice.
There have been so many cover-ups in British history and we know what enables this structure of evil to continue. So we wait with baited breath to see if Alexis Jay‘s approach to the current inquiry delivers justice or do we have to deliver it ourselves, hence the reason we are doing our own documentary just in case.
Michael Mansfield QC, Marcia Willis-Stewart & Legal Team
SOSA Team Including: Raymond Stevenson, Lucia Hinton, Lynton, Maxine, Laura and Rebecca
Justice Goddard - Previous Chair of IICSA Comments on the SOSA Interim Report "Looking For A Place To Call Home"
"Since acknowledging safe receipt of your interim report, I have briefly skimmed through it as I was very keen to get an immediate sense of it, whilst realising that I would need a considerable block of undisturbed time in order to sit down quietly to examine and absorb it in detail and assess its import. What I can however say, on even an initial brief skim, is that the scale and magnitude of the cruelty and depravity of the events so graphically set out in the report is utterly appalling and beyond heart-rending. The report also reflects the huge amount of careful and detailed research that has been carried out over many months and years. The report is cogent and compelling but is also succinct and to the point, which is important. Identifying the critical issues against a graphic background and making the points so clearly, supported by factual case studies, is the absolutely correct way in which to found any claim for compensation or redress. I realise compensation will not be the only - or necessarily the primary purpose - of the work. Nevertheless, acknowledgment of criminal wrongdoing against defenceless children by financial redress as well as by apology and the provision of ongoing remedial support, will be very important for the SOSA survivors."